Empowering Residents to Improve Their Lives

Deb Abraham Spalding

In the glory days of the former military base called Fort Ritchie in Cascade, its recreation facilities were considered by some to be the “best-kept secret” in the Army! These days, the recreational facilities still exist and operate as the Fort Ritchie Community Center, Inc. (FRCC). “That statement is still true today!” claims FRCC’s Executive Director Buck Browning. 

The mission of this non-profit center is to improve lives. He assures us that, “We’re not just a fitness center.” Browning, along with Director of Operations Samantha Phillips, Special Events Coordinator Bev Coyle, and Director of Wellness Brenda Walker, work together to provide quality programs, classes, facility rentals, healthy lifestyle opportunities, and social recreation to local residents, regardless of their age.

For youth, the “Kids Club” is held twice a week and provides a great opportunity for parents to drop their kids off and go work out in the fitness center. “Sports Saturdays” begins on the 14th of January for kids (ages 6-13) to develop various skills or try out a variety of different sports.

Also in January, a Junior Staff program will begin where tweens (ages 12-16) can enjoy the FRCC and brush up on interpersonal soft skills. Browning said, “It’s our hope that they’re [Junior Staff program participants] prepared to become junior staff for our summer camp, as well as quality employees for other local employers.” 

If you’ve considered joining FRCC but would like to learn more about it, an Open House will take place on January 7. Anyone can drop in for free and enjoy class demonstrations that are ongoing from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Director of Wellness Brenda Walker assures that it’s a “Great way to determine your ‘thing’ to achieve your class goals.” If you decide to join FRCC, the special in January is unlimited group fitness classes for $25.00 (you have to be a member).

For those dedicated to fitness, FRCC has comprehensive equipment, professional trainers, and space to train the entire body from top to bottom.

FRCC boasts the “Fortress.” While the fortress requires an additional monthly fee to members, it provides a clean, spacious room with top-notch York dumbbells and barbells that are necessary for those dedicated to fitness. Also, when the “Blue” gym (multipurpose room) isn’t being used for classes, it is set up as an interval-style training place with battle ropes, plyo box, red viper, slam ball, and more. These provide heavy lifters (or anyone) a creative cardio aspect with Hiit circuits and interval training. 

In the fitness center, strength and cardio machines are available for use by members and guests. Recent upgrades to equipment include two new exercise bikes that are extremely user-friendly, especially for those who are completing rehabilitation following knee or hip replacement.

There are two personal trainers on staff, but only for members. Brenda Walker will chat with you first to determine your goals. FRCC provides very affordable one-on-one coaching that is especially suited to those who need to fill the gap between physical therapy and jumping back into fitness. Email Brenda directly at bwalker@thefrcc.org to arrange your chat. Five one-hour sessions are exceptionally affordable for only $150.

FRCC has entered into partnerships with Meritus Health and the Washington County Health Department, along with other organizations, including Frederick County-based agencies, to address the issues facing rural residents in Maryland. The Rural Health Initiative is a grant-funded program that aims to increase access to healthcare and improve the quality of life for rural residents.

Browning said, “This separates us from being ‘just a gym.’ The open houses are part of this grant. Rural Americans have higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease than their peers. A lot of that is a lack of access to health care, including prevention programs that promote healthy life habits. We’re trying, along with our partners, to improve access to health care through screenings, vaccinations, and other activities to improve their overall quality of life.”

Walker is very excited about the February Fitness Challenge next month. She says individuals or teams may enter the challenge. Participants will earn points for special workout sessions, completing “pop-up” challenges, and preparing food plans. She says it’s a fun way to be active, lose weight, and generally improve your life. In addition to earning points for special activities, participants are expected to work out a minimum of three times per week during the month. Walker says she likes the team approach to the challenge because people will hold each other accountable when they are expected to help their team. Prizes include cash, free fitness class passes, and gift cards. 

Many may have already shopped for some local arts and crafts at one of FRCC’s craft shows. They’re held in April, October, and December.  Indoor yard sales are held in February and November, annually. Other activities hosted by the FRCC include a Speaker’s Series, Breakfast with Santa, Halloween Drive-Thru, Easter Egg Hunt, and the Cruise In Car Show. The community center also features a variety of rooms available for special event rentals. Among the spaces available to rent are the gymnasium, multipurpose room, and meeting room.

You are invited to stop in and take a tour of the Fort Ritchie Community Center, including its Camp Ritchie museum, which features an exhibit designed by Ritchie Boy Guy Stern.

The FRCC is located at 14421 Lake Royer Drive in Cascade. You can take a virtual tour of the community center online by visiting www.thefrcc.org.

FRCC Director of Wellness Brenda Walker instructs Hannah Spinx.

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